REVIEW: Java Chip Oreo and Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies

Java Chip Oreo Cookies Package

Everyone loves a comeback story. Like the Buffalo Bills 1993 wild card victory, or Diana Nyad finally completing the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida after several failed attempts, or fat (yeah, fat, it’s allowed now). These are victories we can stand behind, nodding and muttering, “Well, I’ll be damned. They did it.”

With the love of a comeback in mind, I’d like to introduce you to the Rocky Balboa of cookies, the Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo, and the 2007–2008 Chicago Cubs of cookies (they’re not QUITE there yet), the Java Chip Oreo.

Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies Package

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to consider Oreo’s initial attempts. In 2018, Nabisco launched a Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo using Golden cookies and a chocolate cream that had a nearly undetectable hazelnut flavor, the cookies’ greatest flaw. Similarly, Nabisco is not new to coffee flavor combinations, having launched Dunkin’ Mocha Oreo, Latte Oreo Thins, and Tiramisu Oreo with varying degrees of success.

Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies Open

Java Chip Oreo Cookies Open

Upon opening, the Hazelnut Oreo had me concerned. These mostly smelled of chocolate, maybe even just plain Oreo. However, the Java Chip package had a robust and pleasant coffee aroma that immediately reminded me of coffee ice cream, perhaps because of how sugary sweet it was.

Because coffee can be a strong flavor, I decided to try the Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo first. To be fair (TO BE FAIR), the pressure was ON. Launching a chocolate hazelnut flavor is a huge challenge in a confectioner world dominated mainly by Nutella, a mammoth of a product that’s often imitated but never duplicated, and Oreo had already failed that test once. BUT. NOT. THIS. TIME.

Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies Closeup

Friends, these updated Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo are a dream. The hazelnut flavor in the cream filling is POWERFUL, and the slightly darker, more bitter chocolate cookie rounds out the flavor delivery into an irrefutable success. I think I might have said “wow” out loud.

The flavor is not overwhelming or artificial tasting. It’s nutty, balanced, and definitely there. These might be my new favorite Oreo. I’m already thinking up what kinds of baked goods I’d like to make with them. Yum. I’m not giving them a perfect score because the creme is the standard Oreo texture, where I think hazelnut spread is usually impeccably smooth.

Java Chip Oreo Cookies Closeup

As mentioned earlier, however, the story is not as sweet for Java Chip. These cookies are certainly tasty. Using Oreo cream to emulate ice cream is definitely strategic and, in my opinion, a closer flavor match than aiming for coffee alone. But overall, I wasn’t that impressed.

The little added texture element of the tiny chocolate chips throughout the Java Chip cream certainly aided the experience. If java chip is your favorite ice cream, I can see a Dairy Queen coffee Blizzard with chopped up pieces of Java Chip Oreo Cookies being GREAT. But I wouldn’t seek these out again. There are just too many more exciting options available.

Java Chip Oreo and Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies Together

Overall, these are good, but the Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo stands out. Nabisco had some ground to recover from its 2018 miscue, and I think it’s done so here. Time will tell if it can better impress us with a coffee, java, or espresso iteration in the future.

Purchased Price: $3.67 each
Size: 17 oz (Family Size)

Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out 10 (Chocolate Hazelnut), 6 out of 10 (Java Chip)
Nutrition Facts: (2 cookies) 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of total sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels

Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels Bag

Some snacks are so ubiquitous that I’m surprised there isn’t more branded competition in the US retail snack world. Chocolate coated pretzels are definitely one of those treats. Everyone understands what they are, and they’re generally appealing. But there’s maybe one or two brands tops that immediately come to mind.

When it comes to coated pretzels, Flipz is that sturdy standby brand, occasionally dabbling in seasonal flavors like Gingerbread or Caramel Sea Salt. This year, it’s Pumpkin Spice Flipz, and I was cautiously optimistic that these would be delicious. The back of the bag even promises these Flipz pair well with “…friendz!” Cute.

Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels Waft

When I opened the bag, I was hit with a waft of pumpkin spice aroma so strong that I could have closed my eyes and convinced myself I was standing in the candle aisle of a HomeGoods. It was powerful. There was a slight buttery vanilla scent as well. I was a little concerned the flavor would be terrible.

Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels Innards Bite

Fortunately, the smell straight out of the bag is a strange tease compared to the actual taste of these covered pretzels. The taste is sweet and pretty reminiscent of white chocolate Flipz at first. You can taste the salty pretzel, and then there’s a lingering aftertaste of pumpkin spice.

The pumpkin spice flavor is so mild at first that I’m not certain I would have noticed it if I wasn’t trying to detect it. I do think the flavor builds as you eat more, but it certainly takes its time. Not at all like the experience of opening the bag. While a lot of pumpkin spice-flavored snacks tend to overdo it, these left me wanting more.

There was also a white drizzle across some of the pretzels, but it was purely decorative. They all had a similar blend of white chocolate, vanilla, and pumpkin spice flavor despite the amount of drizzle on top.

Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels Drizzle

Overall, these seasonal Flipz are fine. You could probably open a bag of these as a fire-safe alternative to lighting a pumpkin spice candle in a small room. Thankfully, the taste isn’t at all overwhelming, and you could easily eat a full serving without wanting to boycott pumpkin spice-flavored snacks until next August.

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 7.5 oz pouch
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 oz/7 pieces) 150 calories, 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, 12 grams of added sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Spicy Chicken McNuggets and Mighty Hot Sauce

McDonald s Spicy Chicken McNuggets Package 1

If there were a Netflix mini-series about Fast Food Fried Chicken, spicy nuggets deserve their own episode.

Obviously, spicy chicken is nothing new, but when it comes to fast food’s big players, Wendy’s was the first one out of the gate with spicy nuggets. But its on-again, off-again availability eventually opened up space for Burger King to come onto the scene in 2017. They also came with a healthy side of creative social media stunts, including giving away free nuggets to anyone named “Wendy.” Amazing!

McDonald’s has offered spicy chicken items along the way, from various sandwiches to its Spicy Chicken McBites in 2012. But these new McDonald’s Spicy Chicken McNuggets are, apparently, the first new nugget flavor (officially) since 1983. And that’s not all, folks. These are accompanied by the Mighty Hot Sauce, the first new dipping sauce since 2017 (2018’s Szechuan sauce was a return, remember?)

My first impression? The packaging is lame. But it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so who cares?

McDonald s Spicy Chicken McNuggets Orange 2

My second impression? These nuggets are gorgeous! They had more of an orangey hue (am I imagining that?) than the standard Chicken McNuggets, and the tempura coating looked extra flakey. The Mighty Hot Sauce had the crimson tincture of torturous flames and visible chili flakes. Ohboyohboyohboy!

I tried the Spicy McNuggets without the sauce first. The texture was familiar and on point, super flakey and with that sort of airy fluffiness McNuggets are known for. I’m sure that texture isn’t everyone’s preference, but these deliver if you like McNuggets.

McDonald s Spicy Chicken McNuggets Bite 3

The spice level started out mild and grew naturally, like heat from a real spice source. Mine seemed to have a “dry heat,” which you’d expect on chicken. There doesn’t appear to be any seasoning within the nugget; it’s all on the coating.

My only small complaint is that the spice level seems to vary drastically from nugget to nugget. I was concerned when the first McNugget didn’t deliver much heat, but it grew with the second. But it doesn’t get hot enough for me when eating the Spicy McNuggets without the sauce.

McDonald s Spicy Chicken McNuggets Sauced 4

But then, from a humble little black plastic cup, comes the Mighty Hot Sauce, karate-kicking the doors RIGHT off this mother with HEAT.

This sauce is fire. It coats the Spicy McNugget perfectly. In the laziest of descriptions, it’s like the sweet and sour sauce with heat. But it’s better than that. It has pepper flavor, a vinegar kick that hits you right away, a sweet *thwak* from, what is that on the label, Apricot? And then a long slow burn that leaves your tongue and lips tingling for a while after you’re done eating.

Pretty soon, I couldn’t tell whether the heat of each new bite was building from the McNuggets, or if the Mighty Hot Sauce was just blazing away. I found myself wishing I’d asked for honey or maybe ranch to balance it out. When I get these again (yep, “when”), I’ll definitely order fries and try dipping them in this spicy sauce.

Overall, I think this entry into the spicy nugget competitive landscape was well done by Mc’y D’s. It stayed true to its style of McNuggets while offering something new with a spice level you can build upon to your liking. If you want to take it to a 10, load on that Hot Mighty Sauce.

I’m glad McDonald’s didn’t try to overhaul its signature McNuggets too much, and that it launched a hot sauce that is genuinely hot. I will definitely be a repeat customer.

P.S. For what it’s worth, 50% of my McNuggets were boot shapes! Is there some kind of McNugget horoscope reading for when that happens?

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 6 Spicy McNuggets + 1 Mighty Hot Sauce
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (6 McNuggets) 250 Calories, 16 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 540 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of fiber, and 14 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Baconator Pringles

Wendy s Baconator Pringles

Like many of you, I imagine, going to the grocery store is one of my absolute favorite things to do. When I turned 30, I got a birthday card that said on the inside, “You have a favorite grocery store now” as though I hadn’t had one since my 20th birthday? Ha!

Anyway, there I was this past Tuesday, strolling along the aisles of the Skokie Jewel-Osco (an Albertson’s chain, for anyone eager to find these crisps) when I spotted an endcap display wall of glowing Wendy’s signs. Okay, they weren’t glowing, but the bright illuminated red Wendy’s sign graphic on the black tube of Pringles made it LOOK like they were glowing. This store had the new Limited Time Only Wendy’s Baconator Pringles.

Pringles has pulled off some pretty complex flavor combinations before, and I was eager to try these out. The image on the front is the classic, original Baconator with two quarter-pound patties, six strips of bacon, cheese, ketchup, and mayo on a bun.

Wendy s Baconator Pringles 2

Wendy appears on the pop-top lid and there’s a code printed on the underside of the lid for an offer for a free Baconator, Son of Baconator, or Breakfast Baconator with a purchase when you order using the Wendy’s app.

Wendy s Baconator Pringles 3

I was ready for this tube (can? cylinder?) of Pringles to have an overwhelming bacon smell, but it actually was balanced from start to finish, and the crisps were visibly seasoned with a light orange powder (I always prefer it when I can see the seasoning, don’t you?).

There are an awful lot of artificial bacon flavored and scented items out there, and some of them are offensive – this isn’t one of those items. These crisps have tangy sauce flavor, onion, and a great balance of bacon and charred burger.

Compared to the Baconator itself, the crisps could have used a little more bacon flavor, but I appreciate that they didn’t just make a bacon-flavored chip. These crisps taste like meat.

Wendy s Baconator Pringles 4

The aftertaste is slightly sweet, almost like Cheerios. Maybe they were going for bun flavor? But if you don’t like the aftertaste, just shove more meat crisps into your gob, you goof.

Overall these are a surprisingly balanced crisp that do taste like all the elements of a Baconator. Maybe Pringles will bang out a fried egg-flavored crisp next and we’ll have an excuse to eat Breakfast Baconator Pringles in the morning.

I’d try it.

I sincerely hope you’re able to locate these Baconator Pringles. If you’re in the Venn Diagram of people who love Wendy’s and people who love Pringles, these are a little slice of heaven just for you.

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 5.5oz can
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (15 crisps/28 g) 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Smucker’s Uncrustables Taco Bites and BBQ Chicken Bites

Smucker s Uncrustables Taco Bites and BBQ Chicken Bites

What are Smucker’s Uncrustables Taco Bites and BBQ Chicken Bites?

Smucker’s Uncrustables is stepping outside of its proven sweet-based lineup and into the savory space with two heat-and-eat “meat in bread” items — BBQ Chicken Bites and Taco Bites. Uncrustables has done grilled cheese before, but now we’re talking full-on USDA approved animal products, ya’ll.

How are they?

First, let’s assume these are targeted toward and made for kids. They have a different palate than (most) adults, so I set my expectations at “they should be as good as any other kid-food option.”

Smucker s Uncrustables Taco Bites 2

I started with the Taco Bites, hoping for that standard taco seasoning flavor and some cheesy goodness since the front of the package said these included cheese. I used the printed microwave heating directions since there weren’t any for a toaster oven.

Smucker s Uncrustables Taco Bites 3

Biting into these was like biting into a black hole. I know my jaw closed, but around what? The bread on the outside was a dry whole wheat bun. There was an aftertaste of taco seasoning like it was a distant childhood memory, but that was about it. The filling-to-bread ratio was way off, with every bite being mostly dry bread followed by a little bit of the beef crumble.

Smucker s Uncrustables Taco Bites 4

For the second bite in the pouch, I tore off the top layer of bread and folded the rest in half to try to simulate doubling the meat filling. This was much better and led to my discovering that the seasoning on the beef itself is pretty good when it’s not battling the flavor sucking sponge of the whole wheat bun prison it’s delivered in. I predict many a kid will eat the yummy filling and leave the bread exoskeleton behind.

Smucker s Uncrustables BBQ Chicken Bites 5

With my expectations significantly lowered, I moved on to the BBQ Chicken Bites. The same microwave directions had my food ready in 40 seconds.

Smucker s Uncrustables BBQ Chicken Bites 6

The bread used in the BBQ Chicken version was SO MUCH BETTER. It was moist (yeah, I said it) almost like a wheat brioche and was an immediate improvement. The filling was too sweet for my BBQ preferences, but, again, assuming this is for kids, I can see why it leaned into sweet BBQ instead of smoky or savory. The poultry pieces were surprisingly large and looked like legit whole shredded chicken breast meat. There was also a definitive sauciness to the inside that was lacking in the taco version.

Is there anything else you need to know?

I mean, they certainly don’t have a crust. Moniker appeased.

Also, I can see where the crazed parent, desperate to get food into their screaming hungry kid’s mouth, would appreciate something that’s pretty impressively balanced in nutrition and ready in 40 seconds.

Conclusion:

I’m always a fan when a brand innovates outside of its proven space. I think these bites, overall, were designed for kids with care and consideration (I mean, only 170 milligrams of sodium in two BBQ Chicken Bites means someone was paying attention when these were developed).

That being said, the Taco Bites have a lot of room for improvement (please switch the bread. PLEASE!) before I’d buy them again. The Chicken BBQ Bites were pretty delicious even for “kid food,” and I’ll be happy to munch on them as afternoon snacks (there’s not enough food to be an adult meal, that’s for sure) until they’re gone.

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 6 oz. box/3 pouches
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Taco Bites), 7 out of 10 (BBQ Chicken Bites)
Nutrition Facts: (1 twin pack pouch) Taco Bites – 160 Calories, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. BBQ Chicken Bites – 130 Calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Fairlife Light Ice Cream

Fairlife Light Ice Cream

When you were younger, did you ever think ahead to being an adult and being able to “do whatever you want”?

I used to think along those lines, but even my adolescent hopefulness couldn’t have predicted the pure joy in buying every single flavor of a new ice cream release because I was “supposed to” for a product review. That was my reality when I found the new seven-flavor lineup of Fairlife Light Ice Cream.

You’re probably familiar with Fairlife from its presence in the fluid dairy aisle. Its most significant point of difference is the use of and direct-to-consumer sale of ultra-filtered (UF) milk, which is, in my opinion, as a dairy scientist, VERY NEAT.

Ultra-filtered milk is simply milk that has been passed through a membrane that separates out some of the water, lactose, and small minerals. What’s left is milk that is higher in protein and has much less lactose. Fairlife also does other super nifty things like adding lactase enzymes to its chocolate milk which breaks lactose into glucose and galactose, which together can be as sweet as sugar, so the chocolate milk needs less added sugar to be just as sweet! Science can be delicious! Okay, with all of that said, let’s bring it back to performance because it doesn’t matter how clever your ice cream is if it doesn’t deliver on taste.

Cookies & Cream

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Cookies  Cream

I chose to start with Cookies & Cream because I think it’s a crowd-pleasing favorite. The Fairlife version lived up to expectations. The cookies were chocolatey and soft, and the pieces weren’t skimpy. The vanilla had a nice flavor as well, but I did think the texture overall was a little icy and it could have been more creamy and melty. But considering these are light ice creams, I wasn’t shocked.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 190 Calories, 11 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Double Fudge Brownie

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Double Fudge Brownie

I’m always a little wary when “light” versions of products shoot for flavors like Double Fudge Brownie. In the case of Fairlife, I think this flavor is fine, but not amazing. The chocolate ice cream was decent. It’s like their chocolate milk, but frozen. The brownie pieces were surprisingly good. They were soft and pillowy, sort of like a Fiber One brownie.

The fudge sauce was not for me. It had a very harsh acidic canned chocolate syrup flavor that didn’t mesh well with the sweetness level in the ice cream. Keep the brownies, lose the fudge swirl.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: I’m SO sorry, but this pint was tossed from our freezer to make room for frozen goods before I could snag a picture of the nutrition label.

Chocolate and Vanilla

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Chocolate

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Vanilla

Honestly, the staple flavors were a little icy, but pretty good. The Vanilla had little flecks of vanilla bean and the Chocolate flavor was mild, but pleasant. With more fat, the chocolate would have been more luscious. I’d accept a scoop of either as my à la mode any day. Especially considering a serving of the vanilla is basically the nutritional equivalent of a glass of 2% milk with a little sugar. Keep your expectations level, folks.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Vanilla)
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 140 Calories, 6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (Chocolate)
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 190 Calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Chocolate Peanut Butter

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Chocolate Peanut Butter

The Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor was my only huge letdown. There is no peanut butter in this product. There is only added peanut flavor. I get that these are light ice creams, so maybe you can’t add peanut butter, but in that case, maybe don’t make this flavor at all? The pieces of chocolate flakes were mildly redeeming, but overall this one was pretty rough.

Rating: 3 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 190 Calories, 11 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Java Chip

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Java Chip

It was GREAT. Again, this is clearly lower fat than other ice creams, but for some reason, I didn’t notice that as much in this coffee version. The chocolate flakes, much like in the peanut butter version, are nice. They break down and aren’t waxy. Slow melt, but I really liked the coffee flavor in this one.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: I’m SO sorry, but this pint was tossed from our freezer to make room for frozen goods before I could snag a picture of the nutrition label.

Mint Chip

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Mint Chip

Ahh, mint chip. You can’t go wrong with mint chip. Minty flavor makes everything seem refreshing. Would a full fat mint chip melt better and taste better? Yeah. But this ain’t bad. I would love a mint chip ice cream sandwich made with this.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 170 calories, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Overall:

Fairlife Light Ice Cream POWER BOWL

Overall, it’s no surprise these light ice creams made from ultra-filtered milk deliver a slightly inferior texture to full-fat regular ice cream, but that’s par for the course in the rapidly expanding world of light ice creams.

Set these bad boys on the counter for five minutes before you scoop and they do pretty well. I also still think UF milk and some of the techniques used at Fairlife are really interesting. I would buy Java Chip, Mint Chip, Vanilla, or Cookies & Cream again for SURE. But I don’t care much for the flavor trade-offs when you get to flavors like Chocolate Peanut Butter that doesn’t have any actual peanut butter.

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 14 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco